CARBONDALE — The Murphysboro and Meridian boys basketball teams each suffered losses on the winner’s side of the small school bracket on Thursday at the 54th Annual Johnny Mac’s/Carbondale Holiday Tournament at SIU Arena.
Cardinal Ritter College Prep jumped out to a big lead and defeated Murphysboro, 58-42. Meridian missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer and fell to Saxony Lutheran, 57-54.
Murphysboro (10-2) simply couldn’t overcome the quickness of Cardinal Ritter, which led 10-2 just three and a half minutes into the game.
“(Malek Davis) is a heck of an offensive player, but man, defensively he was something else, too,” said Murphysboro coach Daryl Murphy. “Their quickness was just way too much for us. They did stuff that they needed to do to take us out of our game.”
Jeremy House, who scored a game-high 21 points, was the only Murphysboro player who could consistently put the ball in the basket. House drained a jump shot to pull Murphysboro within 17-9 after one quarter.
Jaron Gaston hit a pair of free throws, and Brandon Caldwell scored in transition late in the second quarter. Cardinal Ritter held a 10-point advantage at halftime and really turned it up a notch in the third quarter.
Mario Fleming, Jared Phillips and Davis each scored a basket in the first minute of the third period, and Cardinal Ritter ultimately amassed a 24-point advantage.
“They play 10 kids, and they can force you out of your game situation a lot,” Murphy said. “They sped us up, and that’s not what we wanted to do.”
The opening game came down to the wire. Meridian held a five-point advantage over Saxony Lutheran at halftime, but simply couldn’t make many shots in the second half.
Despite shooting just 33 percent from the field and trailing by eight points with just 90 seconds to play, the Bobcats (7-6) made it interesting.
Saxony Lutheran led 57-53, but was called for an intentional foul with 1.8 seconds left in the game. Demond Vasser made 1 of 2 free-throw attempts, and Meridian got the ball at half court out of bounds. But Darnell Lowe’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
“We got really good shots, and we just didn’t hit them in the second half,” said Meridian coach Erik Griffin. “We made those shots in the first half. We have come a long way since the beginning of the season. We dug ourselves too deep of a hole.”
Austin Jarvis made a bucket to cap off an 8-0 run, which gave Saxony Lutheran a 19-12 lead after one quarter. The Bobcats stormed back and ripped off 12 straight points to open the second period.
Ja’Quan Jones and Demareon Nicholson racked up 10 of those 12 points, and Meridian led 24-19 at the five-minute mark of the second quarter.
But Trae Robinson, a 6-foot-8 center, was too much in the paint. He scored 17 points in the contest. The Bobcats had a five-minute stretch where they didn’t score a point in the fourth quarter as well.
“I can’t fault our effort because we played hard and competed,” Griffin said. “But you go through stretches like that, and it doesn’t matter how hard you defend, the most simple rule of basketball is you’ve got to put the ball in the hole. We didn’t do that enough times to build on our lead.”
Eddie Robertson and Jones scored 13 points apiece for Meridian, and Nicholson added 11.
Murphysboro and Meridian play at 9 a.m. at SIU Arena today.